PDF Technical Presentations – Book 1: Strategy Preparation and Planning

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Research says the average business leaders endure 23 hours a week of meetings. With more than half of the workweek spent sitting through presentations, it's easy to see how they can become monotonous. How can you overcome the innate and overwhelming dread professionals feel when attending yet another presentation? You prepare, plan and practice. Ensure the presentation is catered to the audience's needs and compiled in a way that is captivating and intriguing.

Defining your audience will help you create a presentation best suited to their needs. Understand how your topic is relevant and how it will benefit their needs. Know what they expect to learn and take away from their time with you. Don't assume the audience thinks like you. Demographic biases can often separate our ways of thinking. The more you know them, the more effective you can make the presentation. Consider the audience's level of expertise so you don't lose their attention by speaking over their heads or insult them by presenting basic knowledge.

Executives may be more eager to learn about how your topic will impact their business growth, projection and prioritization. Mid-level managers will be more interested in learning the hands-on requirements, experience and implementation needs for your ideas. If you're unfamiliar with the audience, speak to the meeting organizer before you begin planning your presentation.

Ask who will be attending and what they hope to learn. If you are presenting to a client or prospect, research the company, leaders and organizational priorities online as much as possible. Content is critical in making your presentation a meaningful use of time.

Content must be correct, factual and well-organized. Ideally, you would have the opportunity to understand your content before giving a presentation; however, sometimes we must present on topics outside of our comfort zones. In this case, take time to research everything you can about what you will discuss. Arm yourself with data that supports your message and helps provide answers to the most likely questions. It's not enough to have historical knowledge of the topic but how that knowledge will benefit the audience. When you understand their needs, you can tailor your research and fact-gathering accordingly.

Ensure your data is factually accurate and easily cited, especially if you are presenting to an audience that is well versed in your presentation topic. Nothing can undermine your credibility more than citing incorrect data as factually accurate. How you deliver a presentation is a critical piece of the message itself. Your goal must be to engage your audience and influence them to act upon what you have to say.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Your Presentations

Invest time choosing a presentation method that resonates with your audience, maintains their attention and clearly articulates your data. Your method of giving a presentation must connect with your listeners. Knowing your audience and scoping a topic is essential to earning their attention, and choosing the best delivery method is key to keeping their focus. It's not just about the message itself but the way you deliver the message that impacts others.

Design a captivating visual aid that is sure to hold your audience's attention. Your slides aren't meant to be front and center -- you are. Keep the slides simple so your audience keeps their focus on you rather than on the visual aid. Your message is more important than the slides. Refrain from using too many bullet points when you can discuss the facts aloud instead.

Keep animation to a minimum. You don't want audience members to lose focus and become distracted by the frame swipes, noises and movement. Lastly, less is more. Research shows text is counterproductive to learning. Visuals make a strong impact on listeners, aiding in memory retention. Don't use 10 words if five will do. Keep the data on your slide short, and use powerful images to make an impact.

Once you've set up your slides and begin practicing, you may find the content needs reorganization.


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You may discover information flows better in a different sequence than first thought. Use the slide-sorting feature to change the slide order as necessary. Mindfully considering the sequence and flow of data will also help you remember where everything is throughout the presentation.

Planning a Training Session

In case you need to jump ahead to answer a question, you'll have a better idea of where the information is. Nothing can lose an audience's attention quite like that of a presentation running over time. Keep trimming and trimming until you feel you are close to 18 minutes.


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During this process it becomes clear that your big idea can be communicated in a succinct, distilled manner. Assemble a handful of people who are effective presenters that you trust to give honest, unfiltered feedback on your narrative and slides. After they added their insights, I was ready to have the slides designed. Choose someone you trust and also that understands how to give a TED Talk, and rehearse with them. In my case, I rehearsed with a Duarte speaker coach. When it comes to preparing for a TED Talk, honesty is the best policy. Make sure your coach is not afraid to speak up; 18 minutes goes by fast.

You love your material and you want to include all of it, but if you want to master how to give a TED Talk successfully, you need someone you trust to help you murder your darlings.


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  • You might not be. Your coach should make sure you are telling people why.

    The first few times, rehearse with the clock counting up. Do NOT be looking at the clock at this time. Finish your entire talk and then have your coach tell you how much you need to trim.

    Structure Your Presentation Like a Story

    Your coach should be able to tell you to trim 30 seconds here or add 15 seconds there so that your content is weighted toward the most important information. You need to set a few places in your talk where you benchmark a time stamp. Calculate where you need to be in the content in six-minute increments. You should know roughly where you should be at 6, 12 and 18 minutes. They should work from a printout of the slides and write phrases you deliver effectively so they can be added to your script.

    They should help you capture phrases so you can type them into your notes. Videotape some of your final practices. Videotaping yourself helps you get used to looking at the camera, and you can review the video to look at your stage presence, eye contact, gestures, plus identify any expressions that need modification. Also, if you do an especially good practice run, you can go back and listen to the audio and add the best snippets to your slide notes. So, talk to the camera like there are humans on the other side of it. I gave a TED-style talk in India with a head cold.

    Give your talk two natural ending points. Pick two natural places you could stop in your talk, then demarcate those as possible endings. Search for:.